Quarantine

[This blog is dated March 23rd because of when it took place, but Sister Faulconer wasn’t able to write down all the details until she returned home].

Part of our food storage

The Monday I wrote the last blog post we left to buy two more weeks of food storage.  It was seriously difficult! The hard part is taking bags of heavy things home — you underestimate transportation to the grocery store until you don’t have any!  The bags ripped several times, we stopped to take a rest a couple times, and I bruised my shins with bagged cans. But it worked out! I am very grateful to be able to do food storage and not have to worry about going hungry.  I’m sure many here don’t have that luxury — there are a lot of street vendors (popsicles, corn, tapioca) and farmer’s market sellers here. I can’t imagine Covid-19 is helping them out. We went on splits with the sisters from Olinda.  Olinda is more than two hours from Goiana. We asked the bus driver three times to tell us where to get off. He said he would but didn’t! I stayed with Sister Ascanta in Goiana. She was trained by Sister Barros! I really want to see Sister Barros — it’s been a while already!  

Splits with the Sisters serving in Olinda

We switched back Wednesday morning.  Wednesday afternoon we got new rules — no more splits, no talking to senior citizens or pregnant people.  Sad that we couldn’t follow up with our investigators that are senior citizens at all, but we would also hate to get them sick.  When the phone rang we were afraid we would have to stay in quarantine. But since there were new rules we figured it would take at least several more days to get to full-on quarantine.  Nope. Thursday the district leader [missionary leader of a group of 6 missionaries] called us with rule clarifications. He started out by joking that we would be in quarantine. We believed him but it was a lie. Literally five minutes after that the zone leader [missionary leader of the larger group–about 30 missionaries] called us to say that we really were in quarantine.  We didn’t believe it!  

Quarantine in Goiana offered a good view of the cemetery

Quarantine is crazy.  We did studies like normal in the morning but just studied for as long as we wanted (and could stand it).  We learned a lot together — I love doing companionship study with Sister Ribeiro II. We spent more time studying, cooking, more studying, talking . . . repeat times infinity. That is all there is to do! I decided to read the Book of Mormon in quarantine. If you read 100 pages per day you can finish in just over five days!  Also we called Giovanna,* who was marked for baptism that Saturday. She is awesome and really wanted to get baptized. But a few minutes before the zone leader called us about quarantine, she called to say she couldn’t leave the house. That was too bad — baptisms were still allowed that Saturday, albeit with a ton of health precautions (us, her, the person who would baptize her, the branch president — six feet apart, face masks, hand sanitizer).  But unfortunately her dad didn’t feel good about that. But she is amazing and I am sure she will get baptized when Coronavirus blows over (hopefully it will blow over enough for her to get baptized soonish!).  

It was strange to go into quarantine already knowing I would leave the mission.  I had thought I would do contacts and lessons Sunday night knowing they would be my last — and then leave Monday.  But all of a sudden I had taught my last lesson and done street contacts for the last time without knowing it! We had been teaching Pedro.* We had stopped teaching him, but during the division (splits) he stopped on the street to talk to us so we went back. I hope he reads the Book of Mormon — he has promised to many times but never gotten around to it.  You can’t say God won’t show you the truth if you never experiment just reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it! It’s not that hard, but you do have to do it.

On Sunday at 10:30 pm we got a text that said all the foreign missionaries were going to leave the country.  It was sad. I am so grateful to have been able to serve a little over a year and a half as a full-time missionary.  But sad to miss even a little bit of it! And my heart hurt to think of all the other missionaries going home. It was hard to sleep! I know it must be hard for people who are going home early, and it’s hard to see so many missionaries going home and not feel that God’s work is stopping.  But I remembered this scripture from the Doctrine and Covenants, and then President Houseman sent a text with the same verse!

49 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings.

D&C 124:49

God just asks that we do what he says.  Sometimes he will call us to a mission for 1.5 or 2 years and then ask us to do change our plans or do something else.  We just have to work diligently, be obedient, and he will accept our best efforts.  

The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.

D&C 3:1

Covid-19 isn’t more powerful than our omnipotent Heavenly Father. His work doesn’t stop, even when thousands of missionaries go home. 

*Investigators’ names are changed to protect their privacy.

Preparation

This week Bernardo* got baptized! Now their whole family has been baptized. I am super excited to see a photo of their sealing in a year! We didn’t invite anyone to the baptism because all the meetings have been cancelled. So it was him, his family, and a few members of the branch president’s family.

Bernardo and family

This week Giovanna is marked for baptism. She had been to church several times in a few different wards before we met her. Her boyfriend is a member. She said she had been to a few different churches and never felt the way she feels at church. She said she hasn’t gotten “an answer ” yet but is praying and reading the scriptures faithfully. She said she feels a confirmation (i.e., God confirming that these things are true) is coming little by little. We talked about Alma 32 and how often answers don’t come all at once. We are super excited for her! We have been so blessed this transfer to witness more personal conversions than we usually do.

People aren’t very panicked here, but the news is full of coronavirus. People have started to stop shaking hands — or to think about starting not to shake hands. We are trying to take each investigator to a different member’s house. We are in a branch [tiny congregation] here so there aren’t a lot of members. We have to plan a lot! But nowhere near as much as the branch presidents who have to coordinate all of the sacrament meetings in the wards and branches! That must be a ton of work. This week we had a number of people who said they would go to church — Mateus and Raiane, Mllena and her daughters, and Giovanna. But several people ended up being sick or having other things to do and not wanting to go, so we just took Diane to church. Diane is one of Mllena’s daughters. She is 10 and very smart.

We went shopping for food storage and medication as President Houseman had asked us to do. Food storage is pretty different in Brazil. In Recife I saw all sorts of vacuum packed pre-cooked food, but here in Goiana it’s like the rest of the interior. We have canned peas, corn, and canned peas and corn. We also bought the only three 10-1b cans of fruit in the store — but I thought the store wouldn’t have any canned fruit, so that was a victory! There are no food shortages here yet; they just don’t sell much canned food. We also bought beans, rice, cuscus, ramen, dehydrated soup, milk, pasta, sugar, salt, spices, pasta sauce, crackers, sweet crackers, oatmeal, water, toilet paper and tinned sardines.

As part of my preparation for general conference, I have been studying President Nelson’s talk: “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like Without It?” He listed a number of topics the Book of Mormon clarifies or expands upon, and I have been studying each in the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Recently I studied the topics doctrine of Christ, what it really means to be born again, and the gathering of scattered Israel. It has been super interesting. I have felt the illumination of the mind that Alma talks about in Alma 32 on the mission more than ever before. The Book of Mormon and the Bible complete each other so well! Christ authoritatively states in John 3:5 that we must be born again. Mosiah 5:7-12, 2 Nephi 31, and Mosiah 18 explain what it means to take Christ’s name upon ourselves, the covenants we make at baptism, and what it means to be born again — a change of nature, desire, and action.

Jesus speaking to Nicodemus–Henry Ossawa Tanner

Mosiah 27:25-26
25 And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;

26 And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

Life is pretty crazy with all of these Covid-19 updates and scary news. It is weird to talk to people on the street and not be able to invite them to church like we normally do. We can’t really invite them to a member’s house if we’ve never taught them before. We are thinking about inviting everyone to church and giving them a card with our number to call if they end up wanting to go! But I am very grateful to be able to continue teaching the precious truths of the Restored gospel. I feel for all the missionaries who can’t do that in person any more!

[Update: Sister Faulconer wrote this March 16. On March 19th, she and her companion were asked by the mission president to stop going out and to remain in their apartment. The morning of March 23, she was asked to pack quickly and jump on a bus in order to join other American missionaries leaving Brazil. On the evening of March 27th, after multiple days of travel and many hours in airports in Recife, Sao Paulo, and Los Angeles, she returned home to Utah].

When I heard that Sacrament Meeting was cancelled, “All is Well” began to play in my head. On Sunday the branch chose that hymn to sing in all of the sacrament meetings! This scripture from D&C 101 was also brought to mind:

Joseph Smith

Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Kirtland, Ohio, December 16 and 17, 1833. At this time the Saints who had gathered in Missouri were suffering great persecution. Mobs had driven them from their homes in Jackson County; and some of the Saints had tried to establish themselves in Van Buren, Lafayette, and Ray Counties, but persecution followed them. The main body of the Saints was at that time in Clay County, Missouri. Threats of death against individuals of the Church were many. The Saints in Jackson County had lost household furniture, clothing, livestock, and other personal property; and many of their crops had been destroyed.

D&C 101:12-18

12 And in that day all who are found upon the watch-tower, or in other words, all mine Israel, shall be saved.

13 And they that have been scattered shall be gathered.

14 And all they who have mourned shall be comforted.

15 And all they who have given their lives for my name shall be crowned.

16 Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God.

17 Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered.

18 They that remain, and are pure in heart, shall return, and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion.